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tv   QA Ross Douthat  CSPAN  June 11, 2018 5:59am-6:58am EDT

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legislation, including cracking down on synthetic opioids. coverage. house , live coverage from the u.s.-north korea summit. journal tuesday and wednesday morning for analysis and your comments. ♪ announcer: this week on "q&a," new york times columnist ross douthat talks about his book "to change the church: pope francis and the future of catholicism." ♪
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were here nine years ago, here is what you said about the republican party. [video clip] ross: i think the republican party is roughly where the democratic party was around the time that ronald reagan was elected president, which is to say it is coming off a long political dominance and it has lost its dominance temporarily. the question is how long will it take for the party to come back politically and intellectually as well. [end video clip] brian: that was 2009. what do you say today? ross: i would say did not take that long for them to come back politically.
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whether they have come back intellectually is at best an open question. we often have this nice idea that a party loses power because it does not have any ideas anymore and goes into the wilderness and find new ideas and is rewarded for those new ideas and is ushered into power. history does not work that neatly. it turns out and probably -- you know -- we should have all been aware of that to begin with. the republican party has regained and maintained power primarily through a kind of anti-liberalism that has been pretty successful because liberalism has been culturally successful in various ways and the republicans have been able to ride a political backlash against that. but, you know, as is sort of know,rise devoted to, you
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creative policy thinking, the republican party is still the wasteland it was with donald trump the fascinating figure. in many ways, he was a policy innovator in his very crude, trumpian way during the primary campaign. he ran against conservatism in all kinds of ways. he would stand up on the debate stage and marco rubio or ted cruz would say "you are not a conservative." .nd trump would say, who cares and then he would promise something populist. trump, he never had a plan to operationalize much of that, especially on economics. so the party has fallen back into the same -- i've used the term "zombie reaganism" sometimes to describe it. it is sort of the same ideas the party has put forward before.
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they are not particularly popular as you see in the field attempt to repeal obamacare. that is sort of the republican party as a governing institution right now. brian: how has your thinking changed? ross: i looked so young. brian: you were 29-years-old and had just started writing a digital column. how has your thinking changed? ross: the trump era has partly vindicated some of the things i thought as a young man with more hair and less experience that -- back then. i think trump's rise and victory shows that the republican party is an empty vessel that someone can fill. the natural way to fill it is an economic populism that kind of liens on a white working-class
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base. if you asked nine years ago where the republican party should go, i would have said whathing that resemblest trump has done. what trump has done is in a less substantive way and a morally darker way than i would have envisioned as an optimal scenario for republicanism. started his presidential campaign as a birth certificate conspiracy theorist. some things that i had hoped for have been partially fulfilled but not the way i expected. know, ierally, you think the whole trump experience should make everybody think a little more pessimistically or a little more creatively you or
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both -- i think those things about the together -- kind of changes we need to make for our political parties and really our system of government to work again. something like trump's election is a sign that incrementalists vision has changed. between that time me and now i have spent a lot of time sort of spending timed with a bunch of writers and reformers. we have nice, incremental policy ideas that would move the republican party to the center and so on. if you had me here three years ago, i would have said that we are slowly pulling the republican party in the right direction. i think basically trump came and blew all that up. i think we should feel that our efforts were insufficient and we misread where the country was
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and really the seriousness of a lot of our problems here in d.c., but as a country as a whole. brian: do you work for james bennett? he is now the editorial page editor of the new york times. ross: i do. i am not based in new york right now. i live in new haven. so i do not see him in the office all the time. but, yes, he is my bus, as he was my boss at "the atlantic." but if he is watching right now, i like him. brian: what would he say your columns are about over the last several years? ross: i think that he would say part of my job is everyone is aware that "the new york times" has a fairly liberal readership. i think one of the dangers that
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liberals as well as the kind of conservatives, policy wonks or whatever fall into our kind of "inside the bubble" thinking basically. -- hek you would say would say that the job of a good conservative columnist for his page is at least in part to sort of expose readers to ideas outside the bubble in a way that interest them without infuriating them or alienating them or making them dismiss conservatism as simple bigotry or simple racism or anything like that. so to the extent that he thinks i am doing a good job, i think you would say that, in trying to of andould say that sort trying to do things along those lines, helping to make the op-ed page a place that helps reveal
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the world in all its complexity and you have to have people writing from a conservative perspective in order to do that. brian: do you write your own headlines? ross: not always, but i have a say. brian: this is digital but it says "pope francis is beloved, his papacy might be a disaster." i will read something you said. "the conversation has become predictable. a friendly acquaintance, a real estate agent, asks about my work. i say i have been writing a book about the pope. the acquaintance smiles and nods and says, it is in t cell , -- thel, or acquaintance smiles and nods and says, that must be wonderful. is in t cell wonderful.
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an inspiring be thing. or, i have a friend would like to read it. saying,ally find myself uncomfortably, well they should know that it is not entirely favorable. tell us how it is not entirely favorable. ross: it is a book that has taken his whole papacy. frances is probably the most fascinating religious figure of our era. he is the figure that people in my profession have been most interested in. as john paul ii was, but in a different way. he is a celebrity pope, a pope who has successfully harnessed the pope's position as a focal point for media coverage of the church to a remarkable effect. and he is also a liberaliser. he thinks the church needs to change in various ways, particularly around issues related to the sexual revolution, marriage, divorce, and so on, where prior popes basically said these are changes the church cannot make. these are fraught places in his pontificate where he has clashed
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and cardinals and bishops theologians over just how far he can push theto change what the churchan chae without under coming its own traditions. part of the book is tried to tell this story, which i think is independent of whether, you know, how fondly you feel about the pope. it's an interesting religious story that has applications about any other religion that has a wrestling match with modern society. also, the book has judgments. my judgment is that, on a lot of these issues, the pope has been making a mistake. of course, i am a lehman catholic journalist. i am not a theologian or bishop. so my authority to say these
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things are fairly limited. at the same time, i am speaking for a lot of people who are more theologically serious in various ways that i am. part of the journalists' job is to share the story in a way that others cannot. there's something presumptuous for any catholic writer criticizing the pope. in offering it, i am speaking for an important part of the church and explaining an important side of what is the most important religious argument going on certainly in the western world and arguably the whole world today. brian: one of the recent things that has caught my eye is there is a fellow named skelfari.
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i have an article here from "the catholic herald of great britain." he quotes francis is saying, from an interview that he had with him, and i will show you some video in a second -- "the souls of those who do not repent and therefore cannot be forgiven, disappear. a hell does not exist. what exists is the disappearance of souls." before i ask you to ask you to explain all this, let me show you some video. mr. skelfari is 93 and he has a newspaper called "republica" in rome, italy. [video clip] >> he said some of my advisors said to be careful talking to you because you are a clever man and you will try to convert me. me, converting the pope?
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>> the pope had invited him for a chat. an article attracted worldwide attention. when it came to the church hierarchy, francis was uncompromising. heads of the church, he is quoted as saying, have often been narcissist, flattered by their careers. this vatican-centric vision neglects the world around it and i will do everything to change it. brian: put all this in the context of what we just heard. ross: essentially, the pope's position combines a kind of absolute power with absolute limits on his power. he is the monarch of the catholic church. what he says goes, except, as pope, he is not supposed to be able to change anything. in fact, the whole doctrine of papal infallibility that is a misunderstood is a limit. the pope is supposed to be protected from the holy spirit from saying anything that
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contradicts what past popes have or said. so every pope is very aware of this kind of pressure on their utterances, the constraints on what they can do. the interviews with skalfari, who is not merely in his early 90's, but he is healthy in various ways. he does not take notes in the interviews and reconstructs the conversations from memory. what having conversations with this journalist does for francis is it enables him to basically
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slope theological speculations that a pope is not sposed to float in a kind of deniable you can't prove that i really said it that way. scalfari is probably getting part of what francis says wrong. that is a reasonable assumption. at the same time, the holy father has conducted five separate conversations with him, in which he consistently floats theological speculations that skirt the boundaries of catholic orthodoxy. what you see is a pope trying to find ways, in some cases, to explicitly change the church. in other cases, to introduce a kind of ambiguity and openness for conversation and debate
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around official teachings, and using this kind of informal -- catholics use the word "magisterial" to describe formal papal teaching. the papal magisterium is what po h always taught and said. he is stepping outside that role in these interviews. francis is many things, but he is very media savvy. he has an awareness that, if he talks to scalfari about hell will make headlines around the world. this is the pope's way of
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dealing with these powerful constraints on the office. brian: what do you think of this idea of talking with scalfari, whisn atheist and doesn't take notes? ross: my reaction is, oh, lord, help us. not again. i don't think it is helpful to the catholic faith to have a pope sort of doing this. if the pope wants to introduce different theological ideas about hell, he should open enough ticlynd risk the backlash. and francis, to his credit, has done that on divorce and marriage and whether catholics remarried without annulment can take communion. that is a central controversy of his pontificate.
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francis did push for a certain change. he let them argue it out in these two senates in rome.
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the reaction from the bishops put limits on what he could do. but his response to the limi was similarly a kind of ambiguity, where he issued a long document on marriage that included a small footnote that seemed to open the door to communion for the remarried and basically became a permission slip for some countries and some dioceses and some bishops to go one direction while others went another. the ultimate effect is a kind of shift for the catholic church toward a slightly more anglican model. the anglican church had ideas about communion, substantiation, different liturgical forms, all of these things, without central doctrinal teaching that has been the selling point of the catholic church. you know where the catholi church stands. the anglican model hasn't been working well for the anglicans. taking the catholic church in that direction is a betrayal of what the pope is supposed to do. the pope is supposed to provide unity and continuity rather than opening a perpetual conversation about what catholicism is. brian: let me be very simple. why would god care at the end of someone's life whether they fussed all over this liturgical stuff, divorce, not divorce, if you have basically been a good person all your life? i guess there is a hell. he rejected that, basically, saying he did not say that. ross: the church is still teaches that there is the possibility of hell. brian: why all of this
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handwringing whether you are a protestant or a catholic or a jew? in the end, isn't it about how you lived your life and whether you have been a decent human being? ross: to some extent, yes. but the state of a person's soul, what comes across in a secular frame as are you a good person or not is really a question of the state of your soul after 30 or 40 or 60 or 70 years of life. what kind of condition is your soul in? from the catholic perspective, the condition of your soul is shaved by the moral choices that you make, whether you confessed sins and repent them or whether you maintain that is part of your being and the sacramental life of the church, the mixture of the rights of marriage, the sacrament of confession, taking communion and so on is itself supposed to be a source of grace, a place where grace is entering your life and making you closer to the kind of ultimately if not good at least better person. in the case of communion, when you are living in a second marriage in the church's eyes is effectively an adulterous marriage. what you are doing to take communion in that situation is a kind of sacrilege. and sacrilege is bad for your soul. instead of communion making you a better person by infusing you with divine grace, it turns your sins back on themselves and hardens you in the place of sinfulness you are in to begin with.
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i think it is very easy to see the very understandable, psychological reaction people have to these rules but they are in fact for your protection. so participating in the life of the church when you are in a state of mortal sin is not good for you. it's not how you get to heaven from the catholic perspective. does that make sense as an answer? not for you to say, i guess. brian: let me show you something you talked about in your book. just a small thing and have you explain. i think it irritated you.
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this is a stamp published by the vatican. it is a stamp with martin luther on the right-hand side, at the base of that crucifix. why did that irritate you? ross: did only mildly irritated me. brian: why would the catholic church want martin luther on a stamp anyway? ross: there are a lot of people in the vatican making choices. but the view is the conflict between lutheranism and catholicism or protestantism and catholicism is something that needs to be effectively transcended, which is ideally something i agree with, too, but the best way to transcend it is to have these ecumenical partnerships. this was for the 500th anniversary of the reformation -- and he says, wasn't this a regrettable thing and we can all agree the 16th century popes had good ideas and luther had good ideas and it was a shame they could not figure things out.
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again, i think the impulse behind some of this is that it is admirable and there are ways in which questions where catholics and lutherans have come to common ground about grace and sin and justification that were central to the reformation. at the same time, in other areas, the gap between official catholic teaching, where a letter protestant churches are, has gotten wider, like religion and sexuality since the 1960's. so it is not the case that there is this obvious convergence between catholics and protestant churches. and for catholic teaching to make sense, for catholicism to be taken seriously, i think it should be taken seriously in its claims to be the church founded by jesus christ and all the rest of it. the issues that split the church in the reformation were important issues. it was all just a misunderstanding.
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maybe it started as a misunderstanding, but within years and decades, lutheranism dissolved all kinds of catholic institutions. it changed the teaching on the nature of the eucharist, on transubstantiation to this lutheran compromise. there are also some ways the church should be able to say we committed sins during the reformation. the popes of that era were corrupt. we should have done things differently without in effect elevating luther as the equivalent of a catholic saint. brian: in your book, you point out that there are 200 cardinals, 150 bishops, 400
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priests. why is it, if somebody is over 80-years-old, and they are a cardth cnot vote for the pope? ross: i think that is a decision that john paul ii made. retirement from an active life as a cardinal, life as running an archdiocese or a department of the vatican and so on, corresponds a sort of stepping away from responsibility. of course, there's issues of senility and so on that can enter in. you also get distant from the next pope. it's an arbitrary choice they can be changed by a different pope. brian: and cardinals have to retire at 75-years-old. ross: they have to offer their retirement at 75-years-old. brian: there are 200-plus cardinals still alive in the world.
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why are 40 of them from italy? why does italy have the most sponsible people in the world and catholicism to have a kind of dominance? ross: if you want to go back far enough, st. peter was martyred in rome. the church recognized rum as its captital. its that was true then and it has been true ever since. it's natural in certain ways, if the center of your church is in
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rome, just as the politics of virginia and maryland loom larger in d.c. -- there will always be italian influence. that being said, 40 cardinals in italy in a religion of over a billion people seems disproportionate. one of the things francis has done i think correctly is try to widen the spread geographically of cardinals. benedict and john paul before him did that, too. italian influence has diminished somewhat over the last few generations. but clearly, francis has made an effort to appoint cardinals were not just from outside italy but from more peripheral countries. instead of automatically making the archbishop of the biggest city here in there and everywhere cardinal, he sort of chose cardinals from small
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caribbean islands and places like that. the general intention is to address exactly that sort of disproportionate thing. but it is a hard thing to change, right? you have that quote from francis where he is criticizing. the fascinating thing is that beenontificate has consumed more by these issues i am writing about in the book, these moral and theological controversies, than by the clinic every organization of the church's governance, which is the reason why he was elected. he was elected by mostly non-italian cardinals who looked at how the church was run under
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benedict the 16th and how rome was run and decided we can do better. he wasn't seen as a charismatic figure, but someone who rode the subway and had a personal humility and was not corrupt. he was brought in as a kind of fix it man for the internal culture. he preferred to condemn the internal culture in vivid and often totally reasonable ways, but spend much more of his time on this attempt to shift the catholicism center of gravity to something more liberal. so the vatican met itself has sort of languished under this pope. brian: let me ask you some basics. why is it that the catholic church thinks that it has to have men in the leadership only? and they have to be celibate, cannot be married, unless they were married and then became a priest? ross: it is a multilayered thing. i don't think there is any reason in catholic teaching why the entire leadership has to be male.
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in fact, another thing that francis has done that i agree with is try and find more appointments within the governance structure of the church for women. and i think you could go further. with the church says is that, in effect, the priesthood is for men only. brian: why? ross: for several reasons. was a gender jesus egalitarian and almost all things, and ways that were radical by the standards of his time. so the fact that he can find this choice of the first priests as men is a strong indicator.
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and it is sort of confirmed by the catholic view that the main standf the priest is to inpersona christi, to perform the heart of christ in the sacrifice of the mass, the transubstantiation of bread and and wine into christ's body and blood. jesus was male. and the church is supposed to be the bride of christ in effect. the church thinks there's some sort of sex and gender intention in god's choices. and jesus's choice for the 12 disciples and god's choice to be incarnate as a man, that basically limit the priesthood itself. brian: but it sounds a lot like what happened in this country with women and african-americans when it all caps off 200 and some years ago. just politics, men
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saying to themselves they are the only ones who know how to operate this thing? ross: i think there is unquestionably, in any male-led institution, there will be a degree of sexism. i do not think anyone who has sort of experienced the catholic hierarchy would say there is no sexism there. the church has this reputation now in the wake of the sexual revolution and sort of second and third feminism as this sort of foe of gender equality and female progress. historically, the catholic church, compared to other religious bodies, including protestant churches in the 16th and 17th century, provided many more leadership opportunities for women than any other institution compared to the institutions of pagan rome that
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the church came in conflict with and transformed and so on. the church simultaneously had an all-male priesthood but was more gender egalitarian. you know, the litany of catholic saints is filled with often aggressive and influential women. so the crcenut in an unusual position by the cultural changes of the last 50 years where it has gone from seen often by protestants as is feminize form of christianity, where the role of mary is elevated above the human race, to being seen the way you just described, an example of men running everything. i think the challenge for the churches to, in effect, prove that its view of the priesthood is a theological as opposed to just a sexual view. -- ink the way to do that
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some senses would be a restoration of the roles women paid in the medieval times -- you would have to be innovative .n church governance my preference would be to have a lot more nuns running -- we haven't even gotten into the celibacy question. i can imagine a version of the roman curia that has a very different gender balance. and has a lot of very impressive nuns running congregations and so on. i think that is both compatible with church teaching and if it happened it would be kind of a proof that the church's visn of why it should be a man performing the sacrifice of the mass would be compatible with mail and female equality. brian: another thing i would like to ask you about is annulments. i've not enough people in my life who have gotten annulments
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and they have been very close to the hierarchy of the church. and when you have to hire a lawyer to go through all this thing, why does that make any sense? someone getting married and have children and some people can get annulments and others can't? ross: that part of it does not make sense. that is just corrupt. right? mean, to the extent that the annulment process is available to the well-connected and not available to the less well-connected is a failed process. the church in this country has worked pretty hard in the last 30 yea to correct the problem. so the annulment process can be burdensome in various ways. but the fees are waived. it's not a financial burden on people, although it can be obviously a practical and emotional burden. and if you go through the process, at this point, again, in the u.s., many more annulments are granted than not at the end of the process.
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so it is not something where 10% of annulments are granted and it is only people who know the kennedy or something. there is also the famous case of a woman who famously appealed the annulment granted to her by her husband all the way to rome and she won. the annulment. so that is one case where his influence worked for him only until it did not. brian: wasn't that possibly the case of embarrassment to the church if they had granted it and she was able to take it to the hierarchy and room and most people cannot afford to do that? ross: she was able to leverage her own celebrity against his in various ways. the theory of the annulment process is that is what is supposed to happen all the time. right? the annulment process is supposed to be distinct in
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various ways, but distinct from a divorce process, that in effect of the church is judging on behalf of the marriage. beis not something that can sort of, you know, unilaterally pursued by one spouse or the other. if one spouse says, no, he abandoned me and this was a real marriage, that perspective is heard. basically the way it ended up here in the u.s., different from around the world, is a compromise with the culture we live in. it is a way to maintain the church teaching on the insolvent ability of marriage. where are also saying, the culture being what it is, many marriages are entered into that make them invalid from the beginning. i have very mixed feelings about it. but it's different from -- pope francis has pushed things one step beyond that to a point
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where it seems to me that the idea of solubility is fully emptied out. the annulment processes on heard even if it is corrupted in various ways. even if you say the annulment process is not necessary and people can effectively decide for themselves, then it is hard for me to see what is different from the catholic teaching and what is different from the culture as a whole. brian: let me put on the screen a list of the popes that go back to the late 1930's and early 1940's and ask you to give us a brief. pius, pope john was only there for about four years plus. pope paul vi was there for about 15 years. john paul first was 33 days.
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john paul ii was there 36 years. pope francis has been there for five years. when you look back on that list, what is the difference between pope francis and the ones that came before him? besides the fact that you point out that he is a jesuit. ross: him being a jesuit is one interesting way of looking at it. right? so, the jesuit order has a fascinating reputation in church history. at it as the most conservative order, fiercely loyal to the pope, and in other ways it is seen as the most liberalizing order. that has been true since the 1960's. people thinking of jesuits as sort of the liberal intellectuals of the church. but with those modes of being a jazz would have in common a is
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jesuits are extreme. the are willing to push envelope in different ways to do what they think needs to be done to evangelize. the mentality of the jazz would order i think in the western world since the 1960's has been, look -- you are in a culture that is falling away from catholic christianity for all kinds of understandable reasons. you need to make the church is flexible and adaptable as possible. and that means having a lot of gray areas around hard teachings, so be it. that inis distinct from certain ways. differences between latin america, north america, and europe will stop eat takes from that as well. he sees too much of a focus on rules and doctrines at this moment in history as a big
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obstacle to teaching the gospel. the challenging thing is there has never been a jesuit pope. the papacy has a different job in the church from the jesuits. putting someone who belongs to an order that sees itself as the envelope pushers at the center of the church creates a fascinating dynamic. i think francis's defenders say that he is exactly what the church needs, to push the envelope effectively from the center. but the danger of that is that you lose -- the center does not hold. the danger of that is having a pope that sort of always complains about rigidity. all of these things. a certain rigidity is actually of popes job, as sort frustrating is that maybe for the pope himself. francis isope similar to john paul as i said
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earlier. sort of this globetrotting media presence even though his theological perspective is different from john paul's in many ways. ,he ark of the papacy has been this sort of crude way to look at it is that the pius the 12th was sort of a more conservative figure and other popes sort of allowed the liberalization that followed. and john paul and benedict to it than sort of liberals in the context of the 1960 said, well, things have gotten too far and we need to reinforce catholic orthodoxy. and then francis sees that reinforcement as having gone too far and wants to swing things back in the other direction. as with political figures, there is a pendulum miniature that -- in the church that swings from one pope to another. brian: what grade would you give the catholic church in the way it handled the sex crisis and
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the priests, and what impact that has had on its membership. ross: f-. there are two defenses you can offer the church. since the worst of the revelations that came out in the early 2000's, the church in the u.s., where things were a public scandal, they have done a good job instituting protections and removing abusive priests. and so on. so if you start the clock in 2005, you could give the church a b+. it was a horrible mix of the worst of conservatism and the worst of liberalism in various ways. it was this intersection of this very hierarchical we have to protect the church, a bishop has to be a father to his priests and protect his priests, even at the expense of parishioners' children.
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some of the worst abuses were associated with a sort of -- i don't want to say roman polanski-ish. anything goes,f it is the 1960's, it is the 1970's. it is the realm where, you know, ,t was not five-year-old boys it was priests having affairs that were justified in justify h teenagers and secular contexts. you had liberal bishops leading cover-ups. conservative bishops. it was comprehensively awful. sense now ofof a how pervasive this has been outside of the church. we have the penn state scandals
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and boarding school scandals. at best, that shows that other places were just as corrupt. and the church's business is supposed to be better. instead, it was, at best, just as bad. and at is worse. brian: is it a fact that the church took parishioners' money and paidff people in that process? in other words, if i went to church on sunday and dropped some money in the slot, that money was eventually paid back to parishioners? ross: the church paid a lot of money. brian: a couple of billion dollars. it's fungible, ordinary catholics pay for everything in the church. so they certainly pay for that. and they paid for it in other ways. the archdiocese in boston had to close a lot of parishes. it would've had to anyway because boston is not as catholic as it once was and so on, but were there parishes on the margins that close because
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they had to pay the amount? yes. of course. to the extent to which the ripple effect of that scandal was felt, not just among the people directly affected, but just about every aspect of catholic life. brian: what has happened with the catholic population? has it gone down? ross: worldwide, it has gone up. in the global south. especially in africa. a lot of that is conversion, a lot of it is the fact that africa is the only part of the world where population growth is still rapid generally. , the catholic population as a share of the country is pretty stable but a lot of that is because of hispanic immigration. attendance,at mass
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you have a big clubs in the 1960's and 1970's. then it stabilizes, goes slightly down and then in the last 5-8 years, including under pope francis, the decline has actually gotten sharper. and a lot of european countries, the decline was steeper in the 1960's and 1970's. it has a toad. in latin america -- it has plateaued. the church presents an interesting picture because it is the largest christian community in the world. it has grown in various areas, particularly in the global south. there are 1.2 billion catholics. it is much larger than it was 50 years ago but it is institutionally much weaker.
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in ourlet me go to you time remain. what do you believe? ross: in catholic christianity? i think the story recounted in the new testament is very convincing and is sort of the most plausible instance in human history where a sort of direct --ine intervention so i am a christian because i believe that and i am a catholic christian because i think the catholic church is the most plausible claim to continuity. that sort of relates to some of these questions about divorce and everything else. thatnk one of the thing catholic church has done very well. jesus says a lot of strange things in the new testament. he says you can't get remarried if you get divorced.
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he says, you have to it my flesh and drink my blood if you want to be saved. he places his incredibly high priority on a kind of radical poverty. ways, has, it in some been and presently true to the teaching on marriage, true to their view that it really is the body and blood and communion. taking theh franciscans as their namesake. true to the sort of poverty in service. in all of those ways i think that i believe that jesus christ was the son of god and i think of all the churches in christendom, the cathoc church has the best claim to be the one that he actually founded. brian: back in 2010, you probably remember the "mother jones" article. ross: by mark oppenheimer.
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brian: let me read this and have you fill in the blanks. patricia snow attended a sermon by grace james. " i had an amazing encounter ," snow told me over lunch. from then on, the family followed james around new england from high school cafeterias to elks' lodges to church basements here in the family later began sampling church after church in what ross calls "a tour of american christianity." ross: that was my childhood. brian: were you going from church to church? were you following grace james around? ross: yes. my mother, who was in the first amen's class at yale, sort of
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upper-middle-class connecticut person had a very intense spiritual experience. at these faith healings. i was probably six-years-old at the time. i had a childhood where i like to say, during the week, i went to a nice, liberal, secular public school. and on the weekend, i went and watched my parents speak in tongues. so i sort of had a front -- i had an unusual religious experience, if you will, in that i was along for someone else's religious pilgrimage. like, i am not my mother. who now writes about issues. we'll became catholic when i was in teenager. she is now a writer as well. she writes about some of these issues in a more intense way than i do. what she is a more mystical personality than i am. that is part of the baseline for my approach to all matters
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religious, is that i think religious experience israel. i cannot claim these dramatic mystical experiences. whatever they are, they are not a fraud or an illusion. they are sort of an essential part of the human experience. below the level of is the new testament through? is the catholic church the one true church? thatundation is the idea religion is more important and more important to figuring out the truth about the world they had a lot of secular people tend to think. -- yourhe same article mother "snow recalls how her introverted son would read voraciously in his room, or pace their backyard for hours,
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throwing aaseball against a backstop while talking to himself and making up stories. in the evangelical phase, when someone would put us in a prayer group and you were holding hands, it was like -- do i have to make up a prayer?" ross: yeah. brian: you are obviously not introverted anymore. ross: i was not totally introverted. i would say jokingly, but not completely jokingly, that one of the things i like about the catholic church is what protestants find unpleasant about it. you have prayers that you memorize. there is room for spontaneity, but the mass itself is not a spontaneous experience. you can slip into the back of a
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catholic mass in any parish and there won't come a point in the middle of the service with the priest says, all right, let's have everybody stand up and testify to how jesus changed your life. there's incredible religious energy and not in pentecostalism so on.ngelicalism and notmy 16-year-old self was -- what is the best and worst that has been said about you? the harshest critique is there have been reviews that said i'm not making things up and what i'm describing is not real. that is the harshest critique, and that is wrong. i know it's wrong because i am not a real reporter so i just relied on better reporters than myself and the best reporting bears out the story that i am
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trying to tell. i don't know about the best thing. there have been a lot of critical reviews that have taken the form, of course, he is wrong about this, but he is a serious catholic and makes an elegant case. i'm in the weird position of criticizing a pope and on terms that the secular world finds bizarre. i have to take that kind of review as maybe the best that i can hope for. brian: the name "douthat," where does it come from? ross: northern england. owthwaite once upond a time. probably my protestant ancestors persecuted my catholic ancestors and we ended up in america and we put a u in the name and no one has been able to pronounce it since. brian: married? children? ross: married. three children.
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brian: our guest has been ross douthat. thank you very much. ross: thank you. ♪ [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018] ♪ announcer: for free transcripts or to give us your comments about this program, visit us at q-and-a.org. q&a programs are also available as c-span podcasts. ♪ announcer: next week, a history about faith and resistance.
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about the actions of the kingsville 9 and other catholic activists who protested the vietnam war. announcer: next, your callsnd comments on washington journal. from iowa senator chuck grassley. >> tonight on the communicators, talking about the end of net neutrality. >> the conversation not met neutrality has shifted to legislation. do think it is possible to legislate this issue? >> it fascinati that the republican position all along during my term was that this was something for congress to decide. now that congress has something to decide

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